Professional Team is Born
baseball paying out bigger and bigger salaries and the sport continuing to
expand its reach all across America, it is mind-boggling and
consciousness-raising to flash back to its simpler times and simple
origins as a professional sport, a time of the Cincinnati
Red Stockings - baseball's first professional team.
Aaron B. Chapman organized the team and looked upon it as a way to promote
the city of Cincinnati, its products and services. And Chapman looked upon
Harry Wright as scout, recruiter, player and manger - as a man to get a
English-born former jeweler and cricket player and a veteran of a decade
of top-drawer baseball competition, Harry Wright was a strict
disciplinarian and a shrewd promoter. He decreed that his team was to wear
bright red stockings to set off their white flannel shirts and pants and
dark Oxford shoes. The garb was a bit outlandish for the time, but the
outfit attracted attention and that was what Wright and Chapman were
Stockings were referred to as a "picked nine". That might have
been an exaggeration, but it was a nine picked by Harry Wright.
native of Cincinnati on the team was first baseman Charlie Gould,
nicknamed the "bushel basket" because of his ability to snare
baseballs. Other members of the team included Wright’s brother George (a
star shortstop), who batted .518, drive in 339 runs and hit 54 home runs
in 1869; third baseman Fred Waterman; second baseman Cal Sweasy;
outfielders Asa Brainard, Dave Birdsall and Andy Leonard; catcher Doug
Allison and pitcher Cal McVey. Harry Wright doubled as a relief pitcher
and Dick Hurley functioned as a utility player.
Stockings were the first team to travel across the United States with its
players signed and bound to the club for an entire season. Salaries for
the team covered the period from March to November and ranged from $800 to
a high of $1,400 for George Wright. The lone sub picked up $600. The total
payroll for that historic 1869 season was $9,300.
baseball throughout the Northeast and West, traveling 11,000 miles thanks
to the new transcontinental railroad, the Red Stockings won all 69 of
their games. They were rewarded with a private audience in Washington as
President Ulysses S. Grant complimented what he called "the western
Cinderella club" for its skills and winning ways.
Red Stockings helped boost business wherever they played and their fame
increased each day, the team's net profit for 1869 was a miniscule $1.39
after all salaries and expenses were laid out.
In 1870, the
Red Stockings extended their winning streak to 130 games until the
Brooklyn Atlantics broke it.
team's impact was not for one season, or for two campaigns, but rather for
all time. Baseball as a professional sport was now underway. The success
of the Red Stockings made it sunset time for the amateur in baseball and
dawn for professionalism.